I’m considering teaching, but is it worth it..?
If you find yourself wanting an amazing and truly rewarding career, then it is quite possible that you have thought of teaching. And, I have to say that I’m not surprised. It is an exciting, fulfilling and challenging career. Career doesn’t quite cover It, really, as it is not a 9-5 job. The effects of teaching stay with you, always. There are moments every day, every week, every year, where you have to stop and think “wow, did that really just happen?” We (teachers) are in the privileged and unusual position to be able to shape the future of the young minds in our care. Our words, our actions & our beliefs can completely reshape the reality that young minds experience. We’ve all had a range of teachers and some left us cold, others were stressed or strict and then those who touched our hearts. The ones who made us believe that we could achieve something amazing. Now, that may simply be to complete times tables in our head, read a poem out loud or to finish a 1500m race. It may not even have anything to do with your perception of education – turning up on time, remember to bring something in or just try something outside of our comfort zone. One of the challenges that teachers face is remembering that how we feel may not be how our students feel. For example, they may have been struggling to speak publicly, for years, & the help that you give may seem insignificant, however, you may be giving the most valuable gift they will ever receive. If you want to see how important your desire to help is, then you must watch this…
You get to work with amazing people – students, teachers and staff. You get to share these experiences and reflect on everything that happened to you. Just last week, I spoke to one of the lead teachers at my school. I told him about a reaction from a student that surprised me and we worked out what it might have meant to him, rather than simply what I saw. This student turns up late to class, forgets his equipment and can be disengaged. I have given him 2 detentions this last term and a number of warnings. This was my perspective, what I saw… I hadn’t taken into account how he felt about these things. When he failed to bring equipment, he had to come back to see me at break. We sat down & discussed why these things were happening, reflected on what he achieves when fully engaged in lessons & then how we could change the negative experiences into positive ones. He explained that his dad does not get up early & becomes very stressed, each morning. This means, even though he tries to plan ahead he is ferried out of the front door, even if his equipment is still in his bedroom. The result… he often turns up without his things, is stressed and unprepared, both physically and mentally, for his lessons. So, we brainstormed ideas for how he could ensure he has what he needs, even if his dad says “right, we are going…”. Through our discussion, the student came up with various suggestions – put his things by the door (he already gets things ready the night before), put them in the car, tell his dad what he needs to remember the next day. The student went away seeming happy, even though he had spent his entire break with me. But, on reflection, he had 15 minutes dedicated time. The focus of the conversation was on solving the challenges that he faces and he had an adult supporting him & guiding him through challenges that he simply may not know how to overcome. We all know how hard it can be to challenge our family, but how much harder is it when you are 12… so, he went away with a number of strategies to try. The next day, he is there, nice and early, with all of his equipment. I check as he comes towards the line and positively reinforce his behaviour. My perspective was that I had given him 2 after school detentions and a break time detention but that was not what he seemed to take. At the end of the lesson, he asked if I would be teaching them again, next term. When I said that I would he said “YES!!”.
Another experience that sticks out to me is from my time teaching year 1. I had a student in the class that was known as the “naughty kid”. Firstly, I believe everyone deserves a clean slate and that it is the behaviour and choices that are the problem and not the student. Once you separate the 2, then you can begin to address the issues. Anyway, this student was one of many in the class who presented challenging behaviours. It turns out that the student had a particularly challenging home life. Dad drove articulated lorries and was away for large chunks of time. 2 older siblings presented a host of challenging behaviours. In fact, the oldest sibling has been permanently excluded from a number of schools and separated from the family home. This means that the modelling that the student had seen demonstrated lots of undesirable behaviours. The fact that the student didn’t know how to socialise, was not really Part 2
a surprise. What was worse, this student was the “least problematic” of the children and was, inadvertently, paid little attention. This is not a criticism of the family, far from it. The family wanted the best for the children and tried to do all they could, but this was the reality that this student was facing. Over the course of the year, the student was moved to work with students that he felt would encourage and challenge him, he was encouraged to attempt more challenging work and stretch himself, support was provided so that he could achieve more than he felt possible. By the end of the year, he had changed from a student who could not write a single literate clause, to writing a page and a half of text in a lesson. His behaviour had improved significantly, he socialised with his peers, attended homework club and came running into my class, afterwards, to proudly show me what he had achieved. The changes were so dramatic that he was almost unrecognisable. But, most importantly, he was happy. So were his parents, who came to see me at the end of the year to let me know how much of an impact I’d had on their son and how grateful they were. The student, when he would first see people, used to say “Do I know you?”. At the end of the year, he said to me “Mr Benham, I’m going to remember you!” That is when you remember why we do it, the power we have to change lives. Now, I am not saying it is easy, far from it. By the end of the year, the student had been given a preliminary diagnose for 4 different learning difficulties. I had been working with all sorts of specialists- behavioural support workers, educational psychologists, a range of support staff, teaching and learning assistants, the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), his family. It wasn’t just about me, however, as his class teacher, I was the driving force in changing the direction that his life was heading. This is the power that teachers hold. This is the difference that we make and why we are privileged to do what we do.
Is it worth it… it sure is.
If you are ready to change lives, then get in touch with the Leicestershire Secondary SCITT. You can attend an information event to find out how you could train as a teacher and change lives www.bookwhen.com/leicesterscitt
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